Stable J-aggregation enabled dual photoacoustic and fluorescence nanoparticles for intraoperative cancer imaging

Mojdeh Shakiba, Kenneth K Ng, Elizabeth Huynh, Harley Chan, Danielle M Charron, Juan Chen, Nidal Muhanna, F. Stuart Foster, Brian C Wilson, Gang Zheng
J-aggregates display nanoscale optical properties which enable their use in fluorescence and photo- acoustic imaging applications. However, control over their optical properties in an in vivo setting is ham- pered by the conformational lability of the J-aggregate structure in complex biological environments. J-aggregating nanoparticles (JNP) formed by self-assembly of bacteriopheophorbide-lipid (Bchl-lipid) in lipid nanovesicles represents a novel strategy to stabilize J-aggregates for in vivo bioimaging applications. We find that 15 mol% Bchl-lipid embedded within a saturated phospholipid bilayer vesicle was optimal in terms of maximizing Bchl-lipid dye loading, while maintaining a spherical nanoparticle morphology and retaining spectral properties characteristic of J-aggregates. The addition of cholesterol maintains the stability of the J-aggregate absorption band for up to 6 hours in the presence of 90% FBS. In a proof-of- concept experiment, we successfully applied JNPs as a fluorescence contrast agent for real-time intra- operative detection of metastatic lymph nodes in a rabbit head-and-neck cancer model. Lymph node metastasis delineation was further verified by visualizing the JNP within the excised lymph node using photoacoustic imaging. Using JNPs, we demonstrate the possibility of using J-aggregates as fluorescence and photoacoustic contrast agents and may potentially spur the development of other nanomaterials that can stably induce J-aggregation for in vivo cancer bioimaging applications.

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